The endless lines of swell breaking perfectly along the bays of Raglan was what I had imagined this surfing mecca to behold. Yet, I was to discover that Raglan was so much more than the world famous left hand break. It is home to a dramatic coastline, a buzzing little surf town, a creative culture and a place to completely escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
The landscape is impressive. Endless curves of green hills lead the way as you wind your way through to the coastline. Before you know it, the hills drop away and open to an endless sea of turquoise lines, rolling in from the horizon. The dramatic, scenic, black sand coastline extends beyond the eye can see.
Raglan was originally known by the Māori people as Whaingaroa, meaning “the long pursuit”. Were they in pursuit of the longest wave? Manu Bay on this coast has one of the longest, most accessible and consistent left-hand break in the world. It is known by locals that the wave at Manu Bay can link from the next two breaks further up (Indicators and Whale Bay) on very large swells, making a potential ride of up to 2 km from the top of Indicators. Perhaps, the Māori were in pursuit of the longest ride, the longest wave.
Surfing was popular among other Polynesian people, not just the Hawaiians. Europeans saw Māori surfing when they first arrived in the 19th century on boards (referred to as kopapa), logs, canoes and even bags of kelp. The pastime apparently declined when Christian missionaries promoted modest dress and behaviour, taking away their pursuit. Surfing was revived when the Hawaiian swimmer and surfer, Duke Kahanamoku, toured New Zealand in 1915.
Raglan boasts an abundance of water activities to enjoy. Kitesurfing, kayaking, SUP, fishing and surfing are to name a few.
Surfing Manu Bay, Raglan
Surfing remains the most popular activity and the surfing options are plentiful:
- Indicators is a left hand point break that breaks for up to 600m, from 2 to 10 feet+. It is a long-walled, fast wave with occasional barrels, particularly on the low tide. It picks up a lot of swell and is very consistent. On big days the wave can link up with the next break, Whale Bay. Indicators is an advanced wave and only accessible by paddling from the top of Whale Bay.
- Whale Bay is a left hand point break that breaks up to 200m in length, from about 2 to 8 feet+. It has two sections, an inside hollow section up to about 4 feet that breaks very close to the rocks, and an outside, slower section from 4 feet up. It is an intermediate to advanced wave.
- Manu Bay is arguably the most popular spot featuring a left hand point break which works from 2 to 10 feet+, breaking over 300m. Manu Bay is very accessible and the vibe is awesome. Park your vehicle for the day and paddle in and out as you please.
- Vortex Bay is a soft peak east off the boat ramp that sometimes breaks on low tide when the swell is too large for the main three points.
- Ocean Beach: If you’re not a hard-core surfer, Ocean Beach is a fine place for a swim, a body boarding session or even a surf lesson with the Raglan Surf School. Lifeguards patrol the western end of the beach during the summer months – it’s safest to swim between the flags.
- Ruapuke Beach: If on the odd chance, the point breaks are not working (like they were for us one time we visited) or you're over the crowds, you can take a drive across the rolling green hills of the Waikato country side to an open beach with black sand, which is perfect for surfing and walking.
Ruapuke Beach, Raglan
We resided in an Eco Retreat, Solscape, a Harmonious Diversion from Conventional Forms and Patterns.
Solscape is designed as a place for rest, rejuvenation and playful inspiration, to nurture our connection with each other and the natural world
Nestled on 10 acres at the foot of Mt Karioi, Solscape boasts breathtaking views over the Tasman Sea. Complete with yoga studio, the conscious kitchen, massages, surf school and the surf down the road, this is a truly heavenly place to stay.
There are luxurious to simplistic contemporary eco accommodation options to suit all budgets. We camped our van in the Te Ao Whanga Eco Camp, complete with solar heated showers, an indoor-outdoor kitchen and we were lucky enough to still have a peak of the ocean. There are only limited spots available, making this a unique and private experience, so make sure you book in advance.
The Conscious Kitchen offers delicious organic plant-based cuisine prepared from their onsite permaculture gardens, ensuring that all ingredients are ethically sourced. You can view the menu here.
Solscape’s core values are based on:
the global call for responsible use of natural resources as we create working models of sustainable living, conscious business operations and the development of meaningful social enterprise.
How to get there
We had hired a campervan and drove from the East through Hamilton to reach Raglan. From Auckland, it’s about a 2 hour drive south. There are a number of bus services available from Auckland, however I would recommend hiring a car or campervan as Raglan itself requires some driving to get around from town to the surf, unless you’re open to hitchhiking.
What to bring
- SUNSCREEN! – The Ozone hole sits very close to NZ, making the sun unbearable at times. Another factor of the UV harshness is that the air is clearer. Smog and pollution can create a layer to protect the earth from the harshness of the sun. We would burn at 7pm at night sometimes, so make sure you apply it generously and often!
- Zinc for surfing!
- Surf board wax
- Insect Repellent – The mozzies are ruthless. Layer up! We tried some different brands but I would recommend Bushman Repellent, it seemed to be the strongest repellent. The sandflies aren’t as apparent in Raglan. I found this sandfly map that could be useful if you’re traveling elsewhere in NZ.
- Wetsuit – Even in heat of the summer (we were there in January), very little people were sporting bikini’s and boardies. The average water temperature in Jan is 20 degrees, while February is the warmest month with maximum temperatures hitting 23 degrees. I would recommend a 1-2mm wetsuit for these months. Of course, the winter months (June – Aug) are colder with an average of water temperature of 14 degrees, so best bring a steamer.
- Layers – Some days can be scorching so shorts, a t-shirt or that summer dress are suitable, but at night and once that wind is up, it can be brisk.
- Rain Jacket – The weather is unpredictable, rain can show up at any time unexpectedly. Always be prepared for the rain!
I hope this helps you plan your next adventure to Raglan, New Zealand.
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